Business

Port Manatee welcomes new business

By BRIAN NEILLbneill@bradenton.com

A new shipping line that will call on the port every 10 days is expected to boost sagging revenues, Port Manatee officials announced Thursday.Fort Lauderdale-based HySea Shipping has selected Port Manatee for its new container and breakbulk cargo service between Port Manatee and Puerto Cortes, Honduras.

Automobiles, heavy equipment and trucks will be among the cargo the shipping line will transport, said HySea officials.The service is expected to begin Jan. 22.

“After extensive research and analysis, we selected Port Manatee over other Florida ports because it is the best fit for our company and our growing customer base,” said HySea Shipping owner Mark Jordan in a company statement. “Port Manatee offers excellent intermodal advantages and we anticipate increasing our service to weekly calls as our volumes continue to grow.”

Port authority members were given the news of the new contract at their regular Thursday meeting.The new shipping line is welcome news for port officials who have been grappling with declining revenues, mostly due to the drop off in imported construction materials because of the housing collapse.

Port Manatee is still below the revenue threshold it needs to maintain to satisfy covenants of its bond agreements, the port’s executive director, David McDonald, told authority members.

But McDonald said the HySea line and other new developments should help the port’s bottom line.

“Del Monte, because of some acquisitions earlier this year, looks at having a 25 percent increase in its cargo this year,” McDonald said. “Don’t forget, they’re the No. 2 company here at the port. So when they have a 25 percent increase, that’s significant, not only to us, but to the stevedores, to the trucking companies, to the longshore operators. The trickle-down of all the jobs that creates is really great news.”

The port’s new cargo barge contract with SeaBridge Freight between Port Manatee and Texas has also been thriving, McDonald said. That piece of business, alone, will generate roughly $250,000 in annual revenues, port officials have said.

“We’re looking for our third shipment coming in this week,” McDonald said. “Thank goodness there are people out there willing to jump in and start new businesses in what can be a psychologically precarious time to venture out.”

Federal Marine Terminals also has begun bringing in shipments of a new commodity — 2,000-pound sacks of sugar, McDonald said.All of these revenue streams will help the port’s bottom line, McDonald said.Through attrition, the port has reduced its workforce by about 20 percent over the course of the last year or so, McDonald said.

The port also has launched a program called Project Re-Port that calls on employees and administrative staff to devise ways to cut costs.As an example, McDonald said it was determined that when employees directed their printing jobs to a centralized copier rather than to individual printers, the cost-per-page dropped from 9 cents to 1 cent.

Port staff met with employees to encourage them to continue to come up with similar ways to save money.“It’s certainly a much better meeting than if you have to come in and talk about laying people off or whatever you read in the paper these days. What we’re talking about is hanging on to people and trying to grow the business.”

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